Heroines with skin

When I wrote about beauty, I promised to sketch portraits for you soon. Here are a few: pictures of women I respect and admire.

1. Naomi is one of the brightest, most fun and articulate people I know. She’s in her early 20’s, forging her own way in the world. Her mind is clear and incisive, her personality is arresting, her energy and honesty are invigorating. Naomi struggles with depression, and was recently admitted to a psychiatric ward because of a mental breakdown. Tell the church to pray for me, she said.

She cannot believe I would hold her up as a hero. She’s something of a mess, like me, and her story is not yet told. But I think a heroine is an ordinary woman in whom God is doing something extraordinary. Not someone who has arrived, but someone who does not give up. I believe in her and love her.

2. Maribeth is another young woman I admire. She’s pretty and well-dressed, with heroes, aspirations, and opinions of her own. One of the things I love about her is the way she has learned to embrace struggle. She fights out issues with her dad, then lets him win.

She is in constant motion, with huge dreams and goals. She read the Bible in 90 days. She became an EMT at age 17. She’s taking college courses. She was just accepted for a job she badly wanted—an emergency room EMT and ward clerk. Maribeth was recently diagnosed with Lyme disease, so in the middle of all her dreams and activity, she is being forced to learn about pain, empathy, rest, strict diet restrictions, and being out of control of her life. She’s enjoying the journey, and praying for strength. I cheer for her and love her.

3. Beth is my 50 something year old icon of beauty and femininity. Once, she wrote me a letter to confess a half-truth-white-lie she’d told me in a flustered moment. At the risk of creating huge complications, she wrote me the truth, and added I’ve learned it’s better to take care of these things as they come up, rather than let them master me over time.

My best memory of Beth is from the evening of her son’s wedding, when she and her husband invited about 60 out-of-state family and friends over for supper and chat. When we arrived at the door, her lovely, expansive house was a place of noisy chaos: happy people, scattered toys, and leftover food in every room. She sat on the arm of her couch, swinging her bare feet above a landscape of strewn matchbox cars, relaxed, smiling, and completely at ease.

She is physically one of the most striking women I know, radiant with the beauty that overflows from within, easily outshining her lovely daughters and granddaughters. I love her.

4. Elva is another of the prettiest ladies I know. I met her when I was 14, and last saw her seven years ago, when she was in her upper 60’s, silver-haired and glowing. She’s a self-confessed ex-introvert, whose husband’s public ministry forced her to learn to love people and travel. After his death, she bought an SUV to take her grandchildren on cross-country vacations.

She hosted us in her home, and the picture that I hold is one of vibrant hospitality. She stayed up late to welcome us, then rose by 6:00 am to make us a beautiful breakfast, a trifle bowl of fresh fruit and a warm coffee cake by a new recipe she’d never tried before. When we came downstairs she was quietly reading her Bible, fresh-faced and serene. I am amazed by her—and love her.

5. My great-aunt Mary is a woman I will always honor. She is in her 70’s—still physically fit, attractively dressed, and working many hours a week, though she recently switched from her longstanding job as an x-ray technician to the less grueling demands of rest home care. (I made an assumption based on how the situation looked to me. I was wrong. Correction: She was recently forced out of her longstanding job as an x-ray technician because she was no longer able to keep up with the demands of required training. Unfortunately, her rest home job is even more physically gruelling. Now how’s that for a brave lady?) She was lost to our family for many years by her husband’s being in a cult; when we found her again we grafted her into our branch of the family tree.

She likes being in her 70’s. She says the only age that bothered her was turning 40, when she cried because she knew she couldn’t have any more babies. Every other birthday she was proud of.

She lives free of inhibitions and fears, treasures her heritage, tells good stories, and picks up collections of used books and toys she thinks my kids will enjoy. I love her.


Has a girl ever been surrounded by so many exquisite heroines? And don’t even get me started on my close friends and family…

What makes a hero? Who are yours?

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mama zook
11 years ago

Thank you for sharing about the great treasures in your life…got me to thinking about those who have inspired me!

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